It was a glorious winter and spring in Tucson. Here’s the winter / spring photo montage with video…
It’s the end of a long, stressful, tedious, and expensive process — the pursuit of the coveted American Green Card…permanent residency in the United States. And last Wednesday, Chuan was granted his and a fast track to citizenship (if he wants it). We went to our immigration hearing with our attorney Claudia Arévalo (pictured above) not really knowing what to expect. After months of paperwork, forms, bank statements, tax returns, birth certificates, marriage certificates, affidavits of friendship, affidavits of financial responsibility, over $5,000 in attorney’s fees, filing fees, and medical exams…but the final decision rests with the immigration officer charged with the responsibility of granting or denying your application. And so it’s really luck of the draw who you get. If you get someone who is homophobic or having a bad day, you’re screwed. But it was our lucky day. We got Officer B (name withheld).
We sat in the lobby of the United States Customs and Border Control office nervously awaiting our appointment when the door opened and Chuan’s name was called by a woman in a cobalt blue satin blouse and a beige skirt. It was not an officer’s uniform with gun and taser as I had expected. Was she the officer we were assigned? Claudia was behind us as we walked to the door and whispered, “You’re lucky, she’s nice!” I felt some sense of dread lifting off my shoulders.
Officer B had lived in San Francisco and in the 10 minutes of previewing our case had seen that we were married in SF City Hall. She saw we were first time married, gay, no criminal records or violations of visas. She must have seen that I’m 53. All this added up to the unlikelihood that we were faking a marriage, which is the whole point of this interview…to prove that we are committing fraud and the burden of proof that we are legit is on us.
We dumped on her desk a pile of pictures of the past 3 years of our relationship, along with sworn statements from Simon, Angela and Jeff, and Jean who were either at our wedding or who hosted a wedding reception for us. Then we pulled out a ton of wedding cards, top of the pile being the handmade earth/bicycle wheel watercolor card made by Thom and Alex from the Farm.
It was all enough that Officer B said to us, “You got your green card the minute you walked in the door, but I have to go through with some formalities.” Oh wow. It happened. Officer B just made our lives enormously better. We finished the rest of the interview and she didn’t have to separate us and ask us things like what side of the bed we sleep on and does he have any distinctive moles or birthmarks…that sort of thing.
We walked out of the office back to the lobby within a half hour and flashed Trish, our housemate, the thumbs up. What a RELIEF! I no longer have to have my bank accounts scrutinized, we don’t have to have a million we-fies on the blog to prove our relationship. It’s over, done, finished. Glory hallelujah. Justice is, on rare occasions, done in America.
Later on we had a party at the Tucson Racquet Club. I texted the guests in advance that we would announce the decision at the party in the color of our scarves. Green for “got the green card” or black. Then the guests started arriving up the stairs and immediately checking our scarves. Alex arrived with a single green balloon and a look of worry on her face as she rushed to us. I heard her mutter, “Are they wearing green? Oh thank God!” The look of fear turned to relief and she threw her arms around us. Practically all our neighbors and friends came. They’ve all grown fond of Chuan and perhaps not seeing me be lonely and miserable.
We ordered drinks and the party grew to about 20. We made a small speech about what this meant to us and to thank all of our supporters (and you dear readers who couldn’t attend) for the help all along the way.
It was truly a celebratory evening. Love prevailed. Chuan gets to stay in America. I get to keep my hubby by my side. Thanks goes to all the people in this country who voted and ultimately installed a reasonable Supreme Court that ruled in favor of marriage equality. Thank you to all who encouraged, loved, wrote checks, and helped us get through this trying time.
Now we can just be normal Americans…should we choose such a fate. Yikes.
Nothing says Christmas like nausea, intestinal bloating, and diarrhea. Well, that in summation was my holiday season 2016. Somewhere along the line of holiday food grazing, I picked up a stomach parasite that was having a merry time in my belly while the rest of me was trying to feel the Christmas spirit with Jean who came down from the Bay Area. I found myself emerging from urgent care with a bottle of sulfameth antibiotics rather than a mug of holiday grog which only added nausea to my already bah humbug ad nauseam Christmas. The Bactrim was making me sicker so I went back to urgent care and insisted on something else like an anti-parasite. They obliged and within a day I was feeling right as rain!
But too late, Jean came and went before I felt better. The holiday concert we sang with the Tucson Symphony came and went. The Winterhaven party bike came and went. Our mini road trip to the Shady Dell in Bisbee and Kartchner Caverns came and went and all the while I was feeling on the edge of throwing up. Sorry, Jean! I promise to be in good health the next time and it was great to see you and do some fun things in spite of the little critters. Anyway, here’s a visual recap of the last week or so here in our little alcohol-free, anti-parasitic southwestern winter wonderland…
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It happens in every relationship that is to stand the test of time — introducing your love to your blood. Chuan and I did the post-nuptial tour to Fort Myers, Florida — the heart of Trump’s America. It’s the bible belt, sun belt and Sansabelt all rolled into one waddling package. My family, though, is the outlier liberal family, an oasis of sanity and civility in the new pussy-grabbing paradigm of America.
Each day, Mom and Dad have tea and cookies on their back porch. We discuss all things from their world travels to hemorrhoids to the nightmarish election. Our family has its share of drama, but this time, it was not centered on me. Chuan, as my husband, was welcomed with open arms as their first son-in-law. The contrast of progressive values on their porch to the porches nearby is great. In fact I remember our across the street neighbor, George Kendig, calling black people “porch ponkeys” and “jigaboos.” Something always seemed wrong about him and frankly, this place. Even as a kid I knew it and longed for the day to get out. At 21 I left for New York and never returned.
Fort Myers is a town as adorable as can be with gorgeous early and mid 20th century architecture. But it’s a place where you simply don’t want to know your neighbors. Such is the setting every time I make the familial pilgrimage to see the ‘rents and the bro. On the plane to Fort Myers we overheard some woman with her hair in bangs (and teased back a few generations) say, “Oh we don’t want us another Clinton. She’s a liar!” What do you say to that? Her little shitsu dog escaped out of her bag and sat under my seat.
Anyway, it’s a shame that my family is all so rooted in a place so philosophically embattled. As a result we limit our visits to one or two times a year. Tucson by comparison seems a breath of fresh desert air.
I’m very grateful for all that my parents have done to welcome Chuan and embrace him as their own. And for Chuan, it’s a one-sided experience. He won’t get that — I won’t get that — in turn from Malaysia where it’s not just frowned upon, it’s illegal. I’ve already met the outlaws and they don’t embrace me. So we stay rooted in the place, in spite of the ogre-to-be in the Oval Office, in the place that granted us the right to marry.
Here’s the trip in video and pictures….
It’s that time of year when we are very grateful to have a home base in Arizona. While winter storms begin pummeling the rest of the country, we’re enjoying crisp, cool nights and abundant sunshine during the days. The evening air smells faintly of mesquite fires and the birds songscape changes adding in the winter migratory birds to the music. All our doors are open during the day and cycling is at its best.
We spent Thanksgiving with Erik and Christopher in Cascabel, a small hamlet about 90 minutes from Tucson. They live in a tiny stone house Erik built by himself on a remote piece of land up miles of dirt roads. They live off the grid with solar power and well water providing just enough for themselves. It’s a great place to visit and they’re lovely guys. See the video and pix below…
Election day 2016, started like any other day. I sipped my cardamom tea from my favorite big blue mug I got at Goodwill for $1.50 while performing my usual morning scan of the internet. I entered the keywords Clinton+Trump+polls, checked the headlines on Huffington and New York Times. I found nothing unlike any other day of late — Hillary leading in the polls by a few to several points. I relaxed into my siddhasana yoga position feeling that all was right in the world: my husband is asleep upstairs, his green card is well under way, there’s enough food on the table and Donald Trump is going to suffer a humiliating loss. I savored the idea of watching the tangerine smarmbucket cobble together all the grace he could to deliver a painful concession speech. All would be right in the world and we could go on with our lives. I could turn on NPR again.
The self-absorbed, narcissistic man baby would have been effectively spanked by the voting public. Women could feel that justice was done and the arrogant predator would be publicly neutered and put out to pasture to tend to his gambling fortunes. Latinos would be vindicated. A statement would be made that the highest office in the land should only ever be occupied by someone with dignity and poise.
Lean forward into the microphone and say it again:
Chuan and I invited a few friends over to celebrate election evening. We baked some parsnips, made an Indian dal and set out a cheese platter. We even bought a bottle of champagne to toast the first woman president. Thom brought by some Bulleit bourbon and we made Old Fashioneds with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and then we sat down to watch what my dad used to call “the idiot box.” Indeed.
We watched as the electoral map began lighting up in slow motion with the election night brass jingle each time a state was called. Red. Red. Red. Red. Wait, when is there going to be a blue state? I sipped my drink thinking to myself, have faith, she’ll prevail…it’s early yet. This is when it started to seem like we were all falling under some evil spell as a hush came over the room. The smiles tightened to poker faces. We began leaning forward in disbelief. The the nail biting began. Thom excused himself for a cigarette. This was going to be a close race and not the early evening we had expected.
Clinton was clearly in danger and the words “path to victory” and “striking distance” began coming out of the mouths of the correspondents on the TV. Only they weren’t being used with the feminine pronoun. Time started slowing down like it does when something really crushing is about to happen. My body began to get hot and I felt lightheaded. Rob asked me to open the door for some fresh air. I stepped outside to look at the moon hoping that I could snap out of this nightmare and that I would step back inside and Hillary would have taken a couple key battleground states. It didn’t happen.
The guests began leaving crestfallen as Trump’s numbers climbed dangerously close to winning. Chuan and I sat in the empty living room amid a pile of dirty dishes in sheer disbelief. How could this happen? How could this happen?
You’ve all read the analysis how this could (and did) happen so I don’t need to add my two cents to it. Apathy, blind party loyalty, obsession with celebrity, disillusionment with political elite, latent racism, sexism. It’s all there in one mouthy package with a combover: Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the US.
His election is just one more sign of a nation in decline, an erosion of human values and the ultimate apotheosis of greed, aided and abetted by a dumbed-down, uneducated populace who can’t quite see that a billionaire is the last person they should elect to try to topple the ruling elite. I spent the whole teary day reeling from the shame that half of this country lacks the vision and smarts to have actually elected the very person who will help them dig their own grave. The idiocy is unfathomable.
What about Trump’s barbaric manners borne out in his campaign make us think that he would be a leader with restraint and diplomacy when called to attend to sobering matters such as nuclear war? The real Trump has been scrutinized and revealed for all to see in unruly debates and rally after angry rally. We’ve all seen the child like temper and vindictiveness, the self-absorbed, thin-skinned egomaniac. Who would not be deeply disturbed by the notion of this man being within arm’s reach of the “nuclear football?” Shouldn’t common sense trump party tribalism for that issue alone? It should. But it didn’t. And maybe people think it’s a joke or a far-fetched reality that he could in fact bring on the apocalypse. Well I’m not laughing because he could. And even if he doesn’t use the nuclear arsenal, he certainly intends as a first order to leave tens of millions of people marooned without health care. Is that making America great again?
Now that Chuan and I are married, he could be fast tracked for US citizenship. But he said to me today, “Hubby, I don’t think I really want to apply for citizenship in this country.” There you have it. America’s beacon has gone dim — that someone from a corrupt and broken country like Malaysia would pass up the “opportunity” to become a citizen here. I don’t blame him. Malaysia’s deplorable dictator seems harmless by comparison to Donald Trump with a congress and senate to back him up.
The election of a troglodyte to the presidency of the most powerful nation on earth is a woeful blunder and a low point for the US. The next president of the United States has sent a message to the people that it’s perfectly fine to harass and objectify women and handicapped people, to make racist statements, to lie indiscriminately (well, that’s nothing new to the office), to resort to violence and bullying instead of reason. Oh and let’s not forget that making a general ass of oneself at all times is acceptable behavior and if people don’t like it, hell, you can sue them. I can’t wait to see what sort of mess he will make of international relations.
I hang my head in shame as an American today. I repatriated from Malaysia for this?
Tonight we sat down and began looking at house rentals in Oaxaca, Mexico. Perhaps it’s time to leave again. There’s nothing worse than having a superpower collapse on top of you like a circus tent with the poles kicked out by an elephant.
Well, maybe there is one thing worse: seeing what the Trumps will do with the White House…
Fasten your seat belts folks, we’re in for a bumpy ride. And remember, he isn’t just deplorable, he’s impeachable.
There comes a point in most people’s lives when if they are paying attention, they can put their finger on that very moment when they had in fact crossed over into old age. I had that moment on the way to visit the Grand Canyon last week. As I was loading up the car to drive with Chuan and Trish for their first visit to one of the world’s greatest wonders, I salivated about the photographic possibilities with my new micro four-thirds camera. And then when we were about a half hour down the road I realized I left my camera bag sitting on the floor by the door of the house. How could I make such a dumb mistake? I’ll tell you how: it’s called “old people can’t multitask.” Loading the car, dealing with a different breakfast routine, a new apartment, some new car keys and a vacation rental, road maps, phone chargers, and 2 lovely travel companions with questions – something important dropped out of my brain.
So there I am (above) on the edge of the cliff of the most photogenic natural site on the planet equipped with only my iPhone that is almost as old as the canyon itself. Please now enjoy some mediocre photography brought to you by my iPhone5 whose battery was expanding and about to explode. The image quality improves for the Arcosanti and Sedona portion of the trip as I was reunited with my new camera.
Here’s the video of the trip. You can witness the thunderous underwhelment when Chuan and Trish walked up to the Canyon for their first glimpse into the abyss…
We went on from the Big Ditch to gorgeous Sedona and stopped in at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It’s a bit overrun by tourists but a really great piece of architecture and wonderfully calming inside (see video). Sedona is a beautiful town full of UFO chasers and new agers. Isn’t the term new age old already? Anyway, it’s like Marin in Arizona and it’s all in my favorite color…ORANGE! I realized that if you live in Sedona, surrounded by so much orange, you’d have to dress in complimentary colors. Even the McDonald’s in Sedona was required to do their signature golden arches in turquoise. Still, one can never get enough orange so I was thrilled.
From Sedona we went on to Arcosanti – one of the strangest places in Arizona. It’s a defunct Utopian city designed by Paolo Soleri. Once it promised to be a prototypical city of the future, now it is a crumbling mess of concrete that harkens to a time of greater idealism and one man’s quest to make his mark. It’s a bit like a cross between Ancient Babylon and Planet of the Apes.
Here’s the montage of imagery…
It was a great little trip. Thank you to Trish for driving and Ning for your day pass.
Next stop: Florida to meet the family
Autumn arrived gently at the end of a very long, hot summer in Arizona. Fortunately we weren’t here to experience more than a couple months of it. And now the prize: warm, sunny days, cool nights with a light blanket. And the buzz of the fall season in Tucson as we slide into the holidays. Everything is pumpkin. Pumpkin beer, pumpkin breakfast cereal, pumpkin hand sanitizer, pumpkin deodorant. Well, OK, maybe not.
The days are still warm enough for swimming and the nights cool enough for a fire and a cuddle. Summer was more like, “Love you darling, but don’t touch me — it’s too darn hot.”
This is the time of year when I’m deliriously happy to be in Arizona and relieved NOT to be where most of my dear friends have hunkered down for the winter.
Jeff and Angela invited us on a glamping trip to the national forest near Willcox. We had a great time chopping wood, digging holes, cooking over the open fire and inhaling mosquitoes. We made flame broiled steaks and corn, Malaysian curry, roasted marshmallows with dark chocolate mouth-mix while enjoying the music of crickets and coyotes and great horned owls. It was all so very wild west dude ranchy. Alas, Arizona had a very wet summer and the mosquitoes are out in force this year. The winter freeze will reset them back to zero but it seems that climate change is turning southern Arizona into the subtropics…which is not a bad thing, honestly. I hate to admit this but I’ve taken to fogging the courtyards because it has gotten so bad with the skeeters. I give up on environmentalism when winged vampires are sucking my blood.
Here’s a little video encapsulation of early autumn in Tucson…
Here’s a little photo collage of the past 6 weeks of mountains and married life…
Next stop Grand Canyon.
Returning to Tucson, Arizona, in mid-August after 3 months of traveling in Northern California and Oregon can be a challenge. August is month 4 of 5 months of summer and it’s in the middle of the monsoon season.
This means lots of dramatic storms, intense heat and humidity, and pool time!
I usually get up early and swim before the day’s extreme heat. The mornings are soft, not quite cool and unfortunately now, full of mosquitoes. Tucson has become more tropical over the years of climate change and with that comes the little winged vampires.
This post-marriage return to Tucson was a “homecoming” of sorts. And we returned to a home that was badly in need of a deep cleaning after a filthy housemate ground a deep layer of grime into the furniture, carpet, and walls. After he moved out we cleaned every surface thoroughly and called in the steam cleaners.
Chuan and I sanded and varnished cabinets and table tops, re-organized closets, re-arranged furniture, artwork, threw out tons of junk and reclaimed the house from the maw of grunge. Thanks to Jeff for the use of his orbital sander!
We washed everything to get the smell of the last renter (not Trish!) out, ordered some new sheets and desk chair from IKEA and voila…the bridal suite was ours…
And thus began the immigration process. We were at first promised full pro-bono representation by the non-profit Immigration Equality in New York. But after weeks of phone calls and emails went unreturned, we found out that the attorney who made those promises left the firm and we were left stranded with valuable time wasted. So we immediately contacted a local attorney, Claudia Arevalo, who was extremely helpful.
But she comes with a hefty price tag of fees to assist us in getting Chuan his permanent residency. Fortunately I’ve saved some money for this and with the help of some generous family members and friends, we are able to afford her expertise. A big kiss to all who helped…
So, today we submitted all the paperwork, certified checks, birth certificates, wedding license, tax returns, bank statements, and medical exams to our attorney, and off we go. The price tag for this process is about $5,000. Ugh.
Meanwhile, Chuan auditioned to sing in the Tucson Symphony Chorus. Lois and I both rehearsed and coached him on his art song and the excerpts of the Messiah and Mozart’s Requiem that are required to get into the chorus. He met with Dr. Chamberlain at his office and sang for him Schubert’s Litanei. He let loose with his beautiful baritone voice and was accepted on the spot.
And now on Monday nights we sing together, a chair apart, rehearsing for the January, 2017 performance of Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem. The performance, sung in German, will be to nealry 6,000 people over 2 performances. During rehearsals, I look over at Chuan who is earnestly trying to keep up with the conductor’s rapid pace of complex instructions. There’s a nervous and excited look on his face…like he’s running to jump on a train that has already left the station. To sing with the symphony is a great privilege and only bestowed upon accomplished musicians. For him to get in with no previous singing experience was a great feat and some statement of Chuan’s extraordinary musical ability and ear, not to mention his lovely voice.
I’m so thrilled to share this great musical experience with him. Sometimes I can’t believe that a few months ago we were stuck in traffic in Kuala Lumpur on the way to a mall desperate to find something culturally interesting and now here we are swimming, cycling, and singing with a fantastic orchestra.
Jeff and Angela hosted a wonderful party at their house to celebrate our nuptials. Here you can see my 50+ fat belly and the free-flowing champagne and carrot cake big enough to feed an army that are helping me to maintain my figure…
Thank you to Angela & Jeff for your generosity! Following is the video of the party where you can see us singing a barbershop piece WAY too slow. And you can see Rudy the Puerto Rican poodle in his last few days. Nearly blind and deaf and pretty close to death, this was his last party and we kind of knew it. So I unabashedly fed him some scraps from the table knowing that any lifelong bad habits weren’t going to be for long.
Here are some more miscellaneous pictures of the party and our return to Tucson…
And now we wait for immigration and the first breath of cool…